The Archaeology of the Marsh Creek Site

The Marsh Creek Site sits in an area of low, grassy hills at the juncture of the San Joaquin Valley and the northern Diablo Range . The Delta is roughly six miles to the northeast, and the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay is about 30 miles to the west. Imagine the wealth of natural resources that must have been available to the prehistoric inhabitants of the site:  acorns and pine nuts, berries, roots and seeds; deer, elk, pronghorn, and rabbits; geese and other migratory waterfowl; and many different species of large and small fishes such as suckers, perch, steelhead, blackfish, stickleback, sturgeon, and chub. Is it any wonder that this lush and fertile place has attracted people for more than 5,000 years?

Who were these people, and where did they come from?

In the abandoned villages and burial mounds of the Sacramento—San Joaquin Delta, archaeologists in the early 1900s discovered the remains of a complex culture going back at least 4,000 years. Since then, similar sites have been found throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Scientists are still debating over who these people were and where they came from, but one thing is clear:  these “Windmiller” people (named for the location of one of the first of their villages found by archaeologists) made some of the most beautiful and sophisticated artifacts in prehistoric California.

We still don’t know a great deal about these people, however. The traditional view has been that the Windmiller culture was concentrated in the Central Valley and Delta, and that early groups farther to the west represented a different, unrelated society. The artifacts recently found at the Marsh Creek site are identical to Windmiller artifacts and of the same age.

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